Airline review: Air Canada economy

Inside Air Canada’s B777. Photo: Air Canada Inside Air Canada’s B777. Photo: Air Canada

Inside Air Canada’s B777. Photo: Air Canada

Inside Air Canada’s B777. Photo: Air Canada


Boeing 777-300ER. Air Canada has 12 in its fleet and runs them on this route in a two-cabin configuration with 42 business and 307 economy class seats. THE ROUTE

Vancouver to Sydney. THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Air Canada Altitude and Aeroplan with points transferable to Star Alliance partners. CLASS

Economy, seat 58K. DURATION

Scheduled time is 15 hours 40 minutes. We touch down 52 minutes early and the cabin manager asks us to hold the airline in credit for this against future flights that might be delayed. I might have, but with no gate available, Sydney Airport buses us to the terminal, a process that soaks up all those 52 minutes and another 15 as well, so even though we land early, we arrive late. THE FREQUENCY


The seat has an  81-centimetre pitch and measures 47 centimetres  from armrest to armrest. The economy seats have a 13-centimetre recline. There are USB power points in most seats and three-pin plugs in two out of three seats. BAGGAGE

Carry-on allowance is one standard bag and “one personal article” with 10kg limits. Check-in allows one bag up to 23kg. If you are travelling with sporting gear like skis you pay $100 extra. If you were travelling from Europe to Canada, that baggage would fly free – that’s the consequence of competition. Qantas will be competing with Air Canada on this route this coming northern winter, so keep an eye on the allowances – they may improve.  COMFORT

This is a long flight through the night and I’m fortunate to have an empty seat next to me, but that said, my seat pocket and the carpet below are carrying the crumbs of previous passengers – the cleaners must have been through in a hurry. ENTERTAINMENT

There’s a good selection of current and classic movies and TV series for adults and children. The sound falls out of sync with the vision on my first movie, but fortunately this flaw doesn’t reoccur. I started watching The Affair on the way over, a brilliant Showtime series, and hope for more episodes on this return flight, but my hopes are dashed: even though I flew out the previous month, the line-up doesn’t appear to have been refreshed. SERVICE

The drinks trolley comes around after a time with an offer of beer, wine or soft drinks. There are spirits available, but the cabin staff won’t tell you that. I queried this with the airline, who responded that “the crew don’t offer them simply because it saves time and most people don’t request spirits”. Of course they don’t if they aren’t offered! Despite their temperance, the crew are friendly enough and frequently walk through to offer water. FOOD

It’s a 1980s wedding – the chicken or the beef. I choose the chook and it comes with a very tart salad, a stale bread roll and a dry piece of chocolate cake. Mid-flight there is a snack, chicken again, this time in a sandwich, and a couple of hours from home, breakfast comes along with a choice of pancakes or an omelette. The pancakes had all been taken by the time the trolley reached me, so the eggs it was. They did come with a fruit salad and tasting something fresh was an unbelievable treat. ONE MORE THING

Flying this route once involved a lengthy stopover in Hawaii and eliminating that is a major improvement in terms of convenience.  VERDICT

Air Canada has been voted best airline in North America five years in a row by Skytrax, and while it might be proud of the achievement, it also says something about the state of North American airlines. They’ve got some work to do.

Tested by Jim Darby, who travelled as a guest of Destination British Columbia, Travel Alberta and Destination Canada.

See also: Flight test: AirAsia X economy

See also: Flight test: South African Airways economy

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